Blue Jays team to beat in EastBy Matt Verderame
The Toronto Blue Jays enter July 16 action as the third-place team in the American League East, trailing the Baltimore Orioles by three games and the Boston Red Sox by one.
On Friday, Toronto started of the post-All-Star break schedule against the woeful Oakland Athletics on the west coast and blew a 7-4 lead, dropping its record to 51-41. If the season ended today, the Blue Jays would be traveling to Fenway Park for the American League Wild Card game.
However, the season does not end today. When it does conclude in late September, Toronto won’t be playing in the wild card game. It will have won the East.
For those who are skeptical, consider this: pitching wins. Recently, nobody would talk about the Blue Jays and good pitching in the same paragraph, let alone the sentence. This has been a franchise dominated by hitters like Vernon Wells, Troy Glaus and more recently, Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson and Edwin Encarnacion. Outside of Roy Halladay, admittedly one of the best hurlers of his era, Toronto has had little to brag about on the bump.
Yet this season, things are different. The Orioles and Red Sox have allowed 404 and 427 runs, respectively, while Toronto has surrendered only 380. That statistic puts the Blue Jays third in the AL, only trailing the Clevleand Indians and Houston Astros.
Everybody believed that Marcus Stroman was going to lead the Blue Jays rotation and get little help this season, but it has been the total opposite. Stroman has been terrible , recording a 7-4 record but posting a ballooning 5.15 ERA. Instead, it has been journeyman J.A. Happ who has 12 wins and a dozen quality starts in 18 attempts, putting up a 3.36 ERA.
Then there is Marco Estrada, a veteran who has broken out in a major way. Estrada, who was relegated to the bullpen early on, is leading the starters in ERA at 2.93 and has a team-best 103 strikeouts in 104.1 innings. Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey is also putting together a quietly solid season at seven wins and a 3.93 ERA.
Over the course of the next two months, the Blue Jays are going to surpass Baltimore and Boston. If for no other reason, the hitting will be devastating and when the pitching gets hot, Toronto will go on a long winning streak or two. Both the Orioles and Red Sox have no ability to pitch well for a couple of weeks, making it difficult to string together long stretches.
With the rotation clicking, reigning MVP Josh Donaldson mashing and closer Roberto Osuna shutting teams down, the Blue Jays are going to be a force come October in the boisterous Rogers Centre once again.